COVID-19: Short-term and Long-term Implications for the CRE community

Answering the most important questions in the minds of property owners, managers, and the rest of the workforce in commercial real estate.

When the covid-19 virus first broke out, our thoughts immediately went to how the property management community can get through the crisis and what is awaiting us on the other side of the tunnel.
While there were countless resources on how people can tackle COVID-19, we couldn’t find any exhaustive sources on what the situation meant for the global commercial real estate and property management community in particular.
So we decided to bridge the gap by curating answers to questions in the minds of the property management professionals.
Note: Below are some of the questions that we found being asked around in webinars, our posts, and to our team members. If you have queries that you think we can help out with, feel free to reach out to us, and we’ll be happy to consider adding that here.
To make it easier for you to navigate, we’ve split the section into two:
The first part focuses on the pressing questions that require your immediate attention - such as the safety measures to be taken, managing your buildings etc.
The second part focuses on the long-term implications of this crisis for the property management community - such as adopting new measures, new trends that might arise etc.
How can Property Management teams tackle COVID-19?
1. As a property owner, what should I do to prepare my tenants and residents for the outbreak?
Here are some measures you can take as a property owner to ensure the safety of your occupants:
Adopt preventive hygiene routines
  • Place hand sanitizers, liquid soaps in the common areas of buildings for the tenants to use.
  • Ensure heightened cleaning procedures, implemented at a much more frequent than usual frequency. Disinfecting frequent contact surfaces, such as door knobs, elevator buttons, public restroom fixtures, tables, handrails and work surfaces is a must.
  • If possible, procure masks for the occupants that will minimize the risk of contracting the virus.
Preparing the workforce and staff
  • Consider creating a special task force or a team of staff who will stay up-to-date with the latest protocols, guidelines, and safety measures.
  • Ensure that your team is provided with proper accessories such as safety masks and protective suits.
  • Have a back-up staff ready should the need to take over arise, if one of your members falls sick.
  • The additional hours, tedious workload can take a mental toll on the staff. Assure them you are there for them in this critical situation. Facilitate counselling sessions if necessary.
Facilitate transparency
  • Proactively communicate with occupants, provide guidelines and share information
  • Have a system in place to track visitors, request their travel information, and maintain a digital record which will be useful for authorities
2. How can I equip my workforce and make them better prepared to handle sanitary protocols?
Preventive measures are going to be the key to containing the COVID-19 outbreak, until (and even if) effective vaccines are developed in the near future.
This is where technology can play a major role in preventing the contagion - leverage technology to scale preventive maintenance for hygiene, cleaning, sanitization.
  • Real time transparency into all aspects of building operations and data-driven decision making will be crucial to ensuring that targeted intervention is possible, across portfolios.
  • Keep track of data relating to occupants, visitors, air quality, temperature, humidity can be very useful to execute strategies and measure the spread.
  • Historical data about cleaning routines, violations and their correlation with number of cases can also help property management teams gain visibility, so that they can prepare better and also respond effectively to unfolding challenges in real time.
3. What are some resources/links to make available on our website for the latest information on covid-19?
At a time like this, it is important to rely on verified sources of information to stay updated. Here are a few links you can use to learn the COVID-19 developments in the coming weeks.
4. How to adopt a work from home policy for my property management team if it has never been done before?
This pandemic has led to adopting remote working at a scale never seen before.
While it is true that their hands were forced into this work style, with the impending threats of physical presence and communal spread, a lot of property owners will deem the experiment period a success.
  • Owners and property teams will realize the scope and value of having a central BMS/ BAS system that can be operated remotely.
  • For instance, a large portion of the work spent on monitoring/ supervising teams for inspection and rounds to log equipment status can now be remotely done on the go by leveraging the right technology.
  • Mobile apps and interactive interfaces that can give mobile access to real time updates will become key to keeping all stakeholders empowered and working towards common goals.
What does the future look like for the Property Management Community?
1. What are the global trends/reactions witnessed across the real estate markets amidst the spread of Covid-19?
  • The COVID-19 has thrown us all off our tracks - one telling change it has brought within the commercial real estate community is, property owners have realized the importance of effective facilities management, operations, and strategic property teams.
  • Facilities and operations management, a function that is typically away from spotlight, has seen resurgence as an important strategic player in the wellbeing of building occupants and the continuity of business as such.
2. With a large amount of the workforce having adopted remote working, what do you think the future holds for property developers and owners?
  • Given how the work culture has unfolded in the past weeks, remote working might become a norm within the property management community.
  • This will have a cascading effect on the mindset of property owners who will be keen to adopt new methods of operations that will help them transition into the remote-working lifestyle.
  • An ideal model is where property owners and operators can access building performance and tenant experience data across portfolio in real-time, control BMS operations on-cloud.
  • In the coming weeks measures will be taken to optimize field service teams to focus on critical maintenance rather than on redundant inspections which can be taken care of remotely using mobile applications.
3. What is the future of Building Operations post COVID-19?
Let us get this out there: This crisis is nothing like anything we’ve faced as a community. But when we look beyond the immediate uncertainty, there’s a silver lining:
Property management and operations teams across the world have come together and put their best foot forward to keep us safe.
And when we are ready to move forward from this, the role of operations in buildings will see an evolution:
  • Hygiene and sanitation will become a key influencer in tenant acquisition and retention. Clean measures will become just as important a factor as rent or location when occupants choose buildings.
    The market will get innovative: New products will come up limiting the need for physical proximity:
    BAS operations will move to remote cloud-based monitoring; Occupants will use mobile apps for touchless control over ambience and with elevators.
  • Technology will become critical support to organize activities, provide proactive support - leveraging the right tech will give 3x value to owners, tenants and occupants.
  • The efforts of operations and facilities teams will be better recognized, laying the path for incentivised profiling and upskilling